National Vegetarian Week has arrived, bringing with it a flurry of innovative veggie recipes to inspire plant-based cooking. It’s an ideal opportunity to welcome the veggie-curious to a meat-free diet, and introduce some of the issues that a vegetarian lifestyle tries to tackle. People go veggie for many reasons, from looking after their health, to saving the planet, to a love of animals. We want to introduce the veggie-curious meat-eater to the issue of leather, and the different reasons why someone might choose to wear our Vegetarian Society-approved leather-free shoes.
To state the obvious, leather is animal skin, and so producing leather necessarily involves the death of an animal. Sadly, their life is often no better. Most leather comes from India, China and Bangladesh, where there are no animal welfare protections or they are not enforced. In the US, leather often comes from factory farmed animals, enduring overcrowding, dehorning, tail-docking and castration. Whilst some have argued that leather is simply a by-product of the meat industry, others see it as a very lucrative subsidy to the industry. If you care about animal welfare, then vegetarian leather is the way to go.
Animal-free fashion brands are thriving. If you buy vegetarian leather from brands dedicated to being 100% cruelty-free, it’ll make the big wigs at the top of the fashion industry turn their heads. They’ll see that more people are shunning leather, and they’ll do whatever the consumer demands. Of course, we saw this happen with fur, and now faux fur has been set as the default, so big change can happen. As sustainability expert Anna Lappe said, every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want. At the risk of putting the Snap one hit wonder song in your head all day, you’ve got the power!
Although leather seems natural, the production of leather is no friend to the environment. The tanning of leather is the fifth largest pollution threat in the world, directly affecting 1.8 million people (an eye-widening statistic to say the least). The majority of leather is tanned in countries with little or no environmental standards or worker protection, so the toxic cocktail of chemicals and solid waste leftover from making leather is offloaded directly into local water supplies. The Buriganga river in Hazaribagh, Bangladesh, has even been classified as dead, because the pollution from the many leather tanneries have killed the fish and plant life. If saving the environment is an issue that’s close to your heart, then going leather-free is a good choice to make.
Luckily, there are eco-friendly alternatives to leather out there to switch over to. Our vegetarian leather linings are 100% recycled with a plant-based polymer coating, and they’re completely breathable. Our vegetarian suede is made using recycled plastic bottles and doesn’t watermark like animal suede. Wilby’s faux leather bags use cork leather, which is so sustainable that you don’t even have to cut the tree down to harvest the cork. With more and more fashion brands discovering environmentally friendly faux leathers, there’s certainly a light at the end of the tunnel for those who love the look of leather but also love the planet.
Of course all vegetarian leather is cruelty-free, to animals at least. However, if you buy cheap shoes, they are often made in poor conditions for the workers, whether they are faux leather or not. 87% of all shoes are made in Asia in countries without workers’ rights. Throughout the global shoe industry, workers endure poverty pay, long working hours, denial of trade union rights and significant risks to their health and safety. As campaign group Labour Behind the Label have found, the money they earn is simply not enough to live on. The unrealistically low prices on the high street are often set at the expense of the workers. Actor Rosario Dawson explained it well by asking: “If you’re not paying for it, who is?”
But once you look beyond the high street, there are plenty of other ethical options to pick and choose from. We work very closely with our shoe factory in sunny Alicante, Spain, to make sure no one is being exploited in the making of our shoes. Our workers are protected by EU law and work in safe conditions. Here’s our staff giving us a smile on Fashion Revolution Day. We’re proud to make ethical shoes that don’t compromise on style, hopefully making it easier for those transitioning from wearing leather to going faux.
If you’re interested in trying our breathable, eco-friendly faux leather shoes, now’s the time to buy! Use voucher code VEGGIE10 to get £10 off your order. Offer ends at midnight on Wednesday. Looking for more vegetarian leather brands? Check out our blogs on the best cruelty-free fashion finds. To find out more about the environmental impact of leather, read our overview of the industry. We hope you found this article informative, and we’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below.